Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Opisthocomus hoazin
Meet the Hoatzin, a bird that can be found near bodies of water throughout northern South America. Hoatzins are... well... kind of weird. Mostly because of what they look like as chicks. Oh, and the fact that they are so genetically distinct from other birds that they have their own entire taxonomic Order.

Hoatzins are about the size of a chicken and sport a very small head with a crest, very long wings, and a long tail. Added to the list of their weird traits is their digestive tract. They actually have enlarged crops in their throat that allow them to break down food via bacterial fermentation. But... it makes them stink like garbage. The stink is actually beenficial to the birds, as it tends to keep some predators away.

But lets get back to what they look like as chicks, shall we? When they are born, newly hatched Hoatzins actually have tiny claws on their wings. These claws help them to avoid predators before they are able to fly. Young Hoatzins will jump out of their nests into the water (adults can't swim) and then use those claws to climb back into their nest when the danger has passed.

For a long time scientists have been trying to figure out what Hoatzins are, and they have previously placed them within a whole mess of different bird orders. Genetic testing only made things more confusing when it showed that none of the relationships were especially close, resulting in the Hoatzins getting their own unique Order.

Hoatzins are not currently a threatened species because they have a large range and are relatively common. They are generally left alone by humans, due to the fact that they smell really bad. (Their meat apparently tastes pretty bad too!)

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : South America
Size : Body length up to 26in (66cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Opisthocomiformes
Family : Opisthocomidae -- Genus : Opisthocomus -- Species : O. hoazin

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